Body found under San Francisco home identified as 1876 girl

FILE - In this June 4, 2016, photo, the Knights of Columbus, Yerba Buena Lodge of San Francisco, stand guard as the casket, holding the body of a girl found in May 2016 and buried in San Francisco, is carried to her new grave at Greenlawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Colma, Calif. The girl who died in 1876 and was found last year inside a small metal casket under a San Francisco home has been identified. The nonprofit Garden of Innocence project said Tuesday, May 9, 2017, that the child was 2-year-old Edith Howard Cook, who died on Oct. 13, 1876. (Michael Macor/San Francisco Chronicle via AP, File)

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The 19th-century body of a girl found last year inside a small metal casket under a San Francisco home has been identified, researchers announced Tuesday.

The child was 2-year-old Edith Howard Cook, who died on Oct. 13, 1876, six weeks short of her third birthday, the nonprofit Garden of Innocence said.

The girl’s remains, found by construction workers last May, were apparently left behind when about 30,000 people originally buried in San Francisco’s Odd Fellows Cemetery in the Richmond District were moved in the 1920s to Greenlawn Memorial Park in Colma.

Elissa Davey, a genealogist and founder of the Garden of Innocence Project, organized the girl’s reburial in Colma last year and began her quest to identify the remains.

After hundreds of hours trying to find Edith’s identity, researchers caught a break when they found a map of the old cemetery at a University of California, Berkeley library and matched it to a plot where her parents, Horatio Cook and Edith Scooffy, were once buried.

Once they had the family name, researchers looked for living descendants, one of whom volunteered his DNA for testing.

Marin County resident Peter Cook — Edith’s grandnephew — was a match for DNA taken from strands of her hair.

UC Davis Professor Jelmer Eerkens, who helped with the DNA testing, told San Francisco television station KTVU that Edith died of marasmus, which is severe undernourishment.

“It’s likely she was sick with some disease and at some point her immune system couldn’t combat the disease and probably went into coma and passed away,” he said.

The girl’s well-off family gave her an ornate burial. She was clothed in a white christening dress and ankle-high boots. Tiny purple flowers were woven into her hair and she held a purple Nightshade flower in her right hand. Roses, eucalyptus leaves and baby’s breath were placed inside the coffin, according to the Garden of Innocence report.

Edith’s father was a businessman, the report said. Her maternal grandfather was an original member of the Society of California Pioneers, which is an organization founded by California residents who arrived before 1850.

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